The Digital Photo Conundrum: A Manifesto

By Spicer Matthews

I have been managing digital photos for a very long time. I am not a professional photographer—I’m like you: I love scrolling through my photos and remembering trips, parties, milestones, friends and family, what I looked like 20 pounds ago . . . and I want to be able to access these memories forever.

The problem is, I am on at least my 10th digital photo storage solution. As the technology has evolved I have switched from one software package to another, and more recently from one service to another. Switching is a pain because it entails moving and reorganizing my photos—again. Which brings me to this manifesto. Frankly, I think that all of the existing digital photo services are lacking. I have yet to find one that truly and elegantly meets my needs. Born of this frustration is the following manifesto describing my ideal digital photo service.


Paying a monthly fee to store photos adds up. After all, photos are one of those things most people accumulate over the course of their lives and then pass on to the next generation. Digital photo storage should not equal a monthly fee. I don’t need any more recurring bills.


Storing photos on a computer is risky. Many people know all too well the woe of failing to back up their photos. Locally stored photos also need to be transferred (repeatedly) from old to new computers. Photo storage should be effortless and permanent, and backup should be automatic.


Simply put, you own your photos—no one else does. End of story. Yet every photo service has different terms of service regarding photo ownership. A photo service should protect users’ photo ownership rights.


Not all photos are for sharing. Therefore, photos must be private unless the owner chooses to share them. When Google incorporated Picasa into Google+, for example, the burden of keeping photos private was placed on the user along with pressure to share photos with Google+. A photo service should ensure that users are in complete control of their photos.


Photo organization is a personal thing. Some photo services automatically create albums or impose other logistic features. A photo service should provide organizational tools but leave the decision-making to users.  


Your photostream is not the perfect place for an ad. Yes, storage costs money and photo services need to make money somehow. Nevertheless, a photo service should respect the emotional connection users have with their photos and not allow ads to detract from the experience of viewing them.


Switching photo services is a hassle. Users need to be able to trust in the longevity and integrity of the service they choose. A photo service must be committed to continuously improving its features without compromising the fundamental nature of the service.

So how exactly does the ideal photo service become reality? I am happy to report that Cloudmanic Labs is cooking up a new photo service that meets all of the criteria mentioned above and leverages the dependability and power of Evernote. We are building this app for Hacker League’s Evernote Devcup 2013 and will release it next week. We are calling it Photomanic. You might call it about time.